University of Nottingham: New £4.7m professorship boosts hydrogen expertise and research strength at the University of Nottingham

A team of experts that will enhance the University of Nottingham’s research strength in green hydrogen technologies is being established as part of a £4.7m professorship.

The Leverhulme International Professorship will see Dr Martin Dornheim, an internationally-recognised scientist in the field of hydrogen technology with a special focus on hydrogen storage and compression, join the university’s Energy Institute in September.

Hydrogen technologies will play a key part in enabling the UK to meet the 2050 net-zero emissions target, with green hydrogen expected to replace coal, oil, and fossil gas in industries including steel production and key areas of transport.

Storage of hydrogen at medium or small scale remains a challenge, as it has a much lower volumetric energy density than our current liquid fuels. High densification of the gas is required to achieve a sufficiently high volumetric energy density and the processes used to achieve this are energy demanding and expensive.

Overcoming challenges
Research by Dr Dornheim, who joins Nottingham from his current position as Head of the Department of Materials Design at the Institute of Hydrogen Technology at Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon in Germany, aims to overcome these obstacles to pave the way for a new, green, hydrogen economy.

The award will see Dr Dornheim recruit a team of researchers and PhD students to undertake research over a period of five years, focused on the development of novel materials for hydrogen storage and compression, compressors, and complete storage systems.

In recent years the class of known hydrogen containing materials, hydrides and complex hydrides, has grown significantly. Most of these new materials have not yet been fully characterised. Initial experiments reveal that many of these new materials show unique properties for hydrogen storage, as well as for many other energy related application fields like hydrogen compression and battery applications.

By using a new approach to design hydrogen storage materials we are able to optimize both the hydrogen storage capacity as well as the hydrogen uptake and release time of such materials. This will allow the development of novel high density hydrogen stores.
Dr Martin Dornheim
A particular focus of Dr Dornheim’s work is on so-called Reactive Hydride Composites. In this approach, hydrides are destabilised with very high hydrogen densities. They would otherwise be too stable to be used in reversible hydrogen storage. If successful, this process could double, or even triple, the gravimetric storage density and therefore, the amount of hydrogen that can be stored and used.

These materials are currently among the most promising in efforts to improve current hydrogen storage technologies.

As part of his research Dr Dornheim will be developing a one-of-a-kind Sieverts apparatus, used for measuring the thermodynamics of hydrogen sorption onto metal samples, to enable the synthesis and testing of novel hydride and composites for future hydrogen compressors that will allow hydrogen release at pressures beyond 850 bar. This will be part of a suite of testing equipment that will be used to develop and test key new materials for hydrogen storage.

The university has an international reputation in hydrogen storage and we are delighted to welcome and support Martin Dornheim, who has world-wide recognised expertise in this field.
Professor David Grant, Director of the University of Nottingham Energy Institute
He added: “This exciting Leverhulme project’s challenge is to deliver the next step change in hydride-based energy storage, and we are excited to support him in this ambitious program. If successful this will revolutionise the use of solid-state hydrogen stores for many applications being able to store hydrogen at high capacities, low pressures, and low volumes or to utilise the hydrides to compress gas efficiently.”

The work undertaken by Dr Dornheim and his team will add to an already impressive portfolio of hydrogen research taking place within the University of Nottingham Energy Institute and has been made possible by the Leverhulme Trust. The Trust was established in 1925 to provide scholarships for research and education and the International Professorship aims to maintain the UK’s international standing as a desirable research destination, open to talented individuals from all countries.